A day in the life of a hero

My Dad’s welcome home fan club. My Mom, all three of my sisters, one niece, and two of my daughters were able to be in Sioux Falls to welcome us and the other 83 Veterans and their guardians back from a wonderful day of honoring their service. Photo by my high school friend, Darla Abels, who surprised us at the homecoming.

They say you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes to get to know who they really are. Well, last week I had the privilege of taking a journey in the lives of 84 Veterans, including one very special man...my father.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, at 4:45 a.m., Corporal Edwin Johanning and I, along with other heroes from southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, and South Dakota, boarded the Midwest Honor Flight (Smithfield Foods Mission 5) out of Sioux Falls, S.D., headed for a tribute day in Washington, D.C. My goal as my father’s guardian on this once-in-a-lifetime trip wasn’t only to assist him on his journey, but more importantly, to get to know more about my 84- year-old father and his time in the Army. I wanted to know why he served; what it was like to be away from his family for two years with no other form of communication than handwritten letters; if he worried that the love of his life he had met only a few months before would wait for him; and of course, what kinds of experiences he had while serving. These were my goals...but at the end of the whirlwind day, I learned so much more that could never be told to me with words.

Over the past several years as the Editor of this newspaper, I’ve had the pleasure of writing many Honor Flight stories about Veterans who have gone on our local Brushy Creek Honor Flight. But this time, it was my chance to experience first-hand what it means to these Veterans to be appreciated. It may have been a different Honor Flight, but I think it’s fair to say the encounters and emotions were the same.

Our alarms went off at 1:45 a.m. in order to make our way down to the hotel lobby by 2:30 a.m. in preparation to board the buses that would take us to the Sioux Falls airport. There was great anticipation in the air and not one single person looked tired or agitated at the idea of being up so very early. When we walked through the doors of the airport, the appreciation of our Veterans was immediately obvious. The Honor Flight crew was lined up, helping us check in and assigning our groups for the day - but first and foremost, they thanked each and every Veteran (mostly from the Korean Conflict and Vietnam, but a few from WWII) personally for their service to this great country. Once we were inside the gate, we were served a breakfast to give us energy for the day. I thought it would be a long wait before we boarded the plane, but quite the contrary. The time flew by as my Dad and I visited about our anticipation for the day, a bit about his time in the Army, and also listened to the buzz of Veterans getting acquainted with each other. As we lined up to get onto the plane, my Dad once again ran into an old friend he hadn’t seen in some 30 years, but was reunited with the night before at the Honor Flight send-off banquet. The smiles that lit their faces as they visited while making their way to the plane was priceless.

For the full story, see this week's Eagle Grove Eagle. Subscribe by calling 1-800-558-1244 ext 122 or email Deb at circulation@midamericapub.com or by clicking here.